Mark Bittman is a reporter and writer. You may have occasionally read his food column "The Minimalist" in the New York Times. He also wrote a book called "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" even though he has no intention of becoming a vegetarian. Still, I am grateful that he realizes the importance of a greener diet.
Today I enjoyed reading his Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People, in the January '09 issue of Reader's Digest. I was more enthused by the picture of him holding an apple. Thank goodness, he wasn't sporting a milk mustache. I hope that he doesn't support the idea that milk is good for us. If that were the case - why do we have so many incidences of osteoporosis? Many of the people afflicted are milk drinkers.
Mark Bittman (Photo by Andrew Brusso, Reader's Digest)
A few years back, nothing was ever reported about the damage to our environment from the harmful effects of meat consumption, but slowly yet surely, more writers have been reporting on it, and I am glad that it has found its way into the Reader's Digest through Mr. Bittman. Sadly, not a great deal of people agree with those of us who do not eat meat for ethical reasons. Bittman, though not a vegetarian, has approached this from a different aspect by making a case for eating LESS meat.
When I spotted the boxed material labeled ANIMAL PLANET, with the letters colored thusly, I voraciously pounced on it. Yes, I get excited when I read any articles about our food animals because I am hoping and praying that one day the CAFOs will implode. CAFOs are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, defined as having "1000 animal units or more. An animal unit is a 1000 lbs animal (e.g., 1000 steer feedlot, a 700 dairy cow operation, or a 2500 sow operation)," and are partly regulated by the EPA. In my imaginings, the animals will have been removed and returned to green pastures where they belong.
I'm sure his article has much more to commend it, but nothing seemed as important to me as this box of information which commanded my attention:
* We raise 60 billion animals for food each year--10 animals for every human on earth.
* Just to sustain current consumption levels (and consumption is increasing, so this is conservative), we'll raise 120 billion animals a year by 2050.
* If you grow corn and eat it, you expend 2.2 calories of energy to yield 1 calorie of protein. But if you process that corn, feed it to a steer, and take into account the other needs that steer has in its lifetime-land use, chemical fertilizers (largely petoleum-based), pesticides, machinery, transport, antibiotics, and water--you're responsible for 40 calories of energy to get that same 1 calorie of protein.
* A steak dinner for a family of four is the rough energy equivalent of driving around in an SUV for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home.
* The average American meat eater is responsible for one and a half tons more CO2 -equivalent greenhouse gas--enough to fill a large house annually-than someone who eats no meat.
Well investigated, Mr. Bittman. Thank you. Will this information matter to the average person? I hope so. One never knows, though we have not always responded wisely to other environmental issues. We know that plastic bags are clogging up our landfills, so are we recycling them or buying reusable bags? I don't think many people do. We know that plastic water bottles are also filling up our landfills, and it is common knowledge that plastic generally does not disintegrate, so are we using tap water or agitating for bottles made from glass? Again, I must answer in the negative.
I'm hoping people will read Mr. Bittman's illuminating article and will make an effort to cut back on meat consumption. If we care enough about farm animals and the environment, I'm sure we will make some changes in our lifestyle. Of course, an added benefit per Mr. Bittman would be loss of weight as we adopt a pro-earth eating plan.
After all, Mr. Bittman lost 35 pounds, and made a smaller footprint on Planet Earth.